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Business Communications

Communicating Your New IT Solutions

Communicating Your New IT Solutions During COVID-19 with Brooks IT Services

If you’re a regular around here, you know we usually talk about copywriting tips to help your business better communicate how it transforms your customer’s lives. Today, we’re taking a different direction to tell you why communicating your new IT solutions is critical for your business’ well-being. 

COVID-19 has been top-of-mind for many businesses lately. 

But the pandemic isn’t the only war we need to be fighting. Hackers are capitalizing on these unprecedented times to steal your information and compromise your security. Our friends at Brooks IT Services have put together these tips to help you avoid security threats and make sure that your genuine communications aren’t mistaken for spam.

3 Ways to Combat Cyber Threats

There are several measures all companies can take to avoid cybersecurity breaches. Here are 3 ways to combat cyber threats that can be quickly put into effect.

1. Watch Out for Phishing Emails

In the era of social-distancing, our inboxes contain more email than usual. It’s 2020, and email remains at the center of vital business communications. Unfortunately, it is also at the center of countless cybersecurity breaches. We must be more guarded and suspicious of emails and watch out for phishing email scams. Brooks IT Services has seen an increase of 680% in phishing emails since the COVID-19 lockdown started.

What’s a Phishing Email?

A phishing email is an email sent by a cybercriminal to convince you to reveal your sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or banking details. They do this by pretending to be a representative of a trustworthy company or someone you know. 

Hackers have caught on to the copywriting techniques that well-meaning companies use everyday and use them to craft their phishing scams. This makes it extremely difficult for people to know what is spam and what isn’t.

Can you spot the subject line that’s spam?

Not as easy as you’d hoped, right

Signs An Email Is A Phishing Scam

So how can you tell a phishing email from a legitimate one? Phishing emails…

Appear to be from a company you trust. Cybercriminals take advantage of the trust companies have with their clients. They’ll even include a company’s name and logo or attach a fake invoice. 

Notify you of fake suspicious activity. Hackers will scare you into providing your login information. They may claim there’s an issue with your account information or that there have been several login attempts. 

Include a “special offer.” They’ll offer coupons for free products or say you’re eligible for a free service. 

Have generic language and/or typos. When phishing emails are sent out in mass, the greetings are typically generic (“Dear Customer,” or “Hi Dear,”). Cybercriminals intentionally include spelling and grammatical errors in their emails too. They assume people who overlook these errors will be more gullible, and it’ll be easier to steal their information.

Be More Suspicious of Emails

Trustworthy companies will never ask for your personal information via email. Never download non-secure attachments. If you receive a suspicious email from a company you trust, double-check the sender’s email address. If it looks genuine, contact the company directly with a phone number or website you know is legitimate. 

Now that you know what phishing emails look like, how can you make sure your business communications don’t look like spam? 

Tips to Avoid Sending Spammy-Looking Emails

Familiarize clients with your email address. If you send emails from a marketing automation software (Infusionsoft, Hubspot, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc.),  let your audience know what to expect. Say what the email’s sender address will be and what the contents will look like.  

Minimize poor grammar and spelling errors. This may seem like a duh moment, but there are many professional emails littered with grammatical issues. Proofread your emails and send a test email to confirm there aren’t any mistakes. 

Provide secure downloads. Establish trust with your audience by hosting your downloads in a secure place like Google Drive, WordPress media, or Amazon S3. If you’re sending secure information, always make sure the emails are encrypted. You don’t want someone to steal that information while it’s navigating to the intended inbox. 

2. Use Work Computers

Another simple way to combat cyber threats is to have employees use work computers. With Stay-At-Home orders, non-essential work is being conducted from home. It might be tempting to switch over to personal computers, but this is incredibly dangerous. And no… we don’t mean dangerous for your work-life balance (although it might be for that too!).

Companies take several measures to ensure their computers and networks are secure and protected from cyber threats. These protections aren’t guaranteed on personal devices. If employees access a company network from a personal computer, malware can enter the network and compromise company security. 

To avoid this, provide secure company computers/laptops for employees’ at-home use. And if they aren’t already, have employees use a VPN to connect to business networks from home too. 

3. Improve Your Password Strategy

It’s tempting to set a simple password that’s easy to remember and saves you time. 

But hackers can crack a simple password in a matter of seconds. 

Your time is expensive, but security breaches are too. The good news is you don’t have to choose! You can improve your password strategy in little to no time.

The song lyrics strategy. Song lyrics are long, but easy to remember. Set your password as the first letter of each word in a song lyric. It will be nonsense to anyone else, but you’ll recall it quickly. For example, a password using the starting lyrics of the national anthem would be “Oscysbtdel”. This would take 20 octillion years to break using a PC; but many hackers access multiple computers so this likely break time is much shorter! Add in a symbol or two for even more protection.

Use a password manager. Most business owners have numerous login credentials. Using unique passwords for each one provides maximum security, but remembering them all can be grueling. Password managers are a great solution for setting and remembering highly secure passwords with minimal effort. You’ll just have to remember one password, and the rest is done for you.  

Change passwords regularly. Hackers use computer programs to test every combination of characters your password could be. This means it is only a matter of time before they crack even the most complex passwords. Set a recurring reminder in your calendar to change your passwords regularly so you’ll have new security details before they finish hacking. 

Communicating Your New IT Solutions During COVID-19

The pandemic hasn’t only impacted cyber security. It’s pushed many companies into remote work requiring new technology. To make this transition as smooth as possible, keep these things in mind when communicating your new IT solutions during COVID-19… 

Communicate Often 

The most predictable thing about our current situation is that it’s unpredictable. With each coming day, there’s something new we need to protect ourselves from – either physically or virtually. Shortly after Zoom’s rise in popularity, Zoom-bombing became an issue. Now we know password-protecting calls is essential. As technology and current events change rapidly, keep your employees informed through frequent communication.  

Become a Valuable Resource 

Don’t assume your audience knows the technology. Take time to make sure your communication is extra clear and your audience knows how to protect the application and information they access. The last thing you want is to be bombarded with a bunch of people asking how to get onto Zoom

Be a Person First 

This is something that we preach all the time… It’s not about your company. It’s about the customer. And when you’re dealing with your customers, you have to be a person first. Bryan Brooks affirmed, “they may be your employees, colleagues, and your clients. BUT they are people first.”

Stay Informed But NOT Obsessed

Trying to stay up-to-date on all the latest news is exhausting and unrealistic. With today’s 24-hour news cycle, you could be caught up for hours on end and still not get to everything. You’ll lose valuable work-time and gain more anxiety than benefit. 

So how can you stay informed without getting obsessed? Try signing up for an email newsletter that highlights important tech news. You’ll get straight to the important news, without wasting your time and energy. 

The experts at Brooks IT Services find the most relevant news stories in tech for you and deliver it to your mailbox each day so you can spend less time worrying and more time doing. 

Meet Bryan Brooks of Brooks IT Services

Bryan Brooks is the President and Founder of Brooks IT Services – a managed service provider for small to medium sized businesses. They are currently working hard to secure at-home offices and protect their client’s most valuable asset – their information. If you’re still wondering whether you need more security, download their 12 Little-Known Facts Every Business Owner Must Know About Data Backup, Security, And Disaster Recovery here. 

Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis

Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis

March 18th, 2020… The rapidly spreading coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) led to countless local and national events to be cancelled. Major events such as the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, to MLB spring training, and NBA March Madness came to a stand-still and halted the community spirit they engender. Churches, universities, libraries, and school districts rapidly followed suit. Suddenly, virtual classrooms were hurriedly created, parents had to become homeschool teachers, and homes became offices.

Even today, there continues to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding coronavirus. Will what happened in Italy happen in the United States? How long will this pandemic last? How will it impact my business?

When there’s uncertainty, people either make rash decisions (AKA taking more than their fair share of toilet paper and water) or don’t make any decisions at all.

Take a deep breath…. In… Out…

Let’s talk through one of the most important decisions your business should be making right now: communicating through the coronavirus crisis to your community about your company’s plans.

2 Camps for Coronavirus Business Communications

There are 2 camps for coronavirus business communications: those which require immediate communications with customers or vendors (urgent) and those whose business has not been impacted dramatically (non-urgent). It’s critical that you figure out which camp your business is in. 

There are 2 audiences for business communications, audiences that:

  • Urgently need information (i.e. staff, customers and vendors or suppliers)
  • Can wait or don’t need explicit communications about what you’re doing 

You should communicate with both audiences, but your immediate priority audience should be staff, customers, and vendors/suppliers. This is especially important regarding the highly volatile and troubling COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies That Require Urgent Communication

If your business primarily depends on customers and workers being physically present in your place of work, it is essential that you communicate as soon as possible with your customers, employees, and vendors about your plan regarding the coronavirus pandemic. 

Here are some examples of companies that require urgent communications with employees, vendors, and customers:

  • Restaurants / Cafes / Coffee Shops / Bars
  • Fitness Centers / Gyms
  • Businesses whose supply chain has been disrupted (how many of your goods or components are sourced from China?)
  • Retail stores
  • Event planning companies
  • Entertainment
  • Face-to-face contact

Companies That Do Not Require Urgent Communication 

Businesses and people that you work with, but don’t necessarily have to be in the same room or building with them to conduct your business, should be considered for non-urgent communications. Why? Because they only need to be kept informed about what and how your business is operating under current conditions as it may affect how you continue to work together.  

For example, if your key personnel are now working from home, they may need to offer their cell phone number or clients or set up call forwarding to their cell phone. 

That’s why you won’t see an email about how FocusCopy is reacting to the coronavirus pandemic. Our clients already know that we can do everything remotely and that we are able to deliver our services to them – business as usual.

Here are some examples of companies that you may consider for non-urgent communications:

  • Companies that already work remotely
  • Coaching or consulting businesses

Identifying What Coronavirus Means For Your Business

To communicate effectively with the community regarding your company’s plans, you should first identify what the current state of affairs means for your business.

Create a Business Communications Plan Before You Need It

Most days, I check the weather before I leave the house so I know whether to pack an umbrella – I don’t want to get caught in the rain. 

If the coronavirus had your company blind-sided, let’s talk about ways you can regularly tune into the forecast of your business network to anticipate major events and be prepared for an unexpected storm.

Pay attention to your employees, vendors, customers, and customer’s customers.

One of my mentors once told me to ask every business I come in contact with, “How’s business?”. Whether it is before the close of a meeting or at the end of a quick phone call, it’s one of the best pieces of advice that he ever gave me.

Asking this one simple question will give you a regular update on the economic climate and keep you tuned in to challenges that might soon rise to the surface. When issues arise in other businesses, vendors, customers, or employees, you can anticipate the impact this might have on your business and start preparing your communication plan, well in advance.

Always Defer to Reliable Sources For Guidance

It’s so easy to get caught up in pseudo-reliable sources or believe compelling news trends that pick up in your social media feeds. However, before you put out any business communications, defer to the legitimate reliable sources of information – the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). 

While we could go into everything you need to think about when it comes to COVID-19, we’ll defer to resources that the CDC has put together for businesses.

Tips for Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis

Here are tips for communicating through the coronavirus crisis.

Keep Messaging Clear & Concise

When public health officials release new information, they aim to be consistent, accurate, clear, and concise. You should do the same thing. The last thing that you want to have happen is have a wave of customers responding with clarifying questions. 

If there is any vital information that your audience needs to hear, don’t withhold it. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, then state it. 

Many businesses in the service industry (restaurants, cafes, bars, etc.) have created a separate COVID-19 response page on their websites to explain how they are helping to maintain cleanliness and how they are going to serve their customers despite ever-changing demands from public health officials. 

If your normal services need to be adjusted to protect your customer and your staff, consider creating a COVID-19 web page of your own, or devoting a post on your social media page explaining the change(s).

Be Positive

Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis
The College Planning Center Example

There is a balance between being serious (not joking) and remaining positive. It’s a fine line to dance, but we always err on the side of caution especially with something as serious as a pandemic. Acknowledge the challenges of the situation, and offer ways that your business can provide some solace or positive distraction. 

One of our clients forwarded us this great email – full of empathy, positivity, and opportunity. It acknowledges the situation (lack of college guidance while schools are closed) and a perfect solution to make their readers not waste this extra long Spring Break.

Leave Email Blasts for Essential Communications

Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis
Postmate Example

Leave the email blasts for essential communications. Here are some companies that sent really well put-together emails about their response to COVID-19.

Postmate has direct contact with their consumers; therefore, it makes total sense to send out an email to their customers. One thing that we really like about this email is they include everyone – customers, fleet (their “employees”), and vendor (restaurants) in one simple to read email. It’s clear and concise. Bullets are your best friend here!

Unfortunately, my inbox has been flooded with non-essential emails. These messages aren’t communicating useful information about changes in a company’s normal procedures or access to their services. Instead, they are sending out messages solely because they have hopped onto the bandwagon and think that they need to address the world news via an email blast. 

To protect the following perpetrators, we haven’t included any examples. But I can almost guarantee that you have some in your inbox. Read through a few of them, and while reading these, ask yourself… Did these communicate anything valuable? 

Remember, if your customers already interface with you digitally or have little in-person interactions with you, do them a big favor and spare their inbox by communicating with them using  other mediums instead. Your community will respect your ability to be thoughtful and intentional about your communication.

Reinforce Safety & Priorities

Southwest Example

While you’re communicating through the coronavirus crisis, it’s important that your reinforce safety and state your priorities. Your customers need to hear that you’re taking care of everything.

Southwest Airlines put together a great email outlining the biggest concern in the airline industry right now – cleanliness. They expressed that while they already have an extensive cleaning process, they’ve upped their game to protect their customers.

Letting your customers and employees know what your company is doing to ensure their health and safety will put the community at ease, and help business run as close to normal under unusual circumstances.

Get On It Early

It’s no shocker that things change on a daily if not weekly basis. In the span of just 2 days, Harris County shut down all bars and clubs and closed all restaurant dining rooms. In the food and beverage industry, that’s a rapid and radical change! Successful transitions into these changes relies on a company’s ability to adjust early.

When first hearing news about health and economic troubles in other parts of the world or even local companies outside of your industry, it’s only natural to want to keep hope that these misfortunes will not come your way too – that things will not get as bad here. But like the old saying goes: better safe than sorry. It’s better to prepare a plan you may never have to use, than to be forced to react last-minute without one. 

Another benefit about planning an early response is that it allows you to create your own narrative rather than allowing the media, the government, or competitors to write your storyline for you.

Support Other Businesses 

Bottom line… Every business has been impacted by COVID-19. In times like these, there is power in numbers. We are stronger together. Support other businesses by…

  • Engaging with their brands on social media
  • Sharing offers from other companies
  • Partnering with a company for a joint product/service
  • Referring business to those other businesses

Offer Free Value 

If you have not been impacted, then I encourage you to offer free value to your followers. Don’t be afraid to give value, even if it was once behind a paywall. Here is a list of free value you can offer your followers, prospects, and customers:

  • Free Facebook Group
  • Access to normally paid content (see below for an example from Digital Marketer)
  • Webinar training
  • Instagram/Facebook/LinkedIn LIVE content
  • New blogs
  • Guides (see below for what Jenna Kutcher put together)
  • Podcasts 
Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis
DigitalMarketer Example

All of these options are social-distancing proof, can be extremely valuable, and help build relationship equity.

For example, DigitalMarketer just offered its DM Lab available for free. This is a subscription that has helped me as I built my career. Again, they’re building relationship equity. 

And they didn’t send an email about how they are reacting to COVID-19.

Extend Grace to Your Vendors & Customers

Everyone reacts differently to stress. Some become very quick decision makers. Others lose their cool or shut down. So in all your communications – digital, written, verbal, etc. – extend grace. You don’t know what unexpected challenges others are dealing with, how they react to stress, or how they’ve been treated by others. 

Thankfully, this isn’t the first pandemic of our time (last one being the 2009 H1N1 pandemic). For some of us towards the end of the millennial generation or in Generation Z, that memory may be vague. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask more experienced colleagues. This isn’t their first rodeo, so you may learn something that will help you not reinvent the wheel.

Give large amounts of grace. Be quick to forgive. And forgive often. 

At the end of the day, your vendors and customers are human beings. I know I say that all the time, but we often forget that we’re working with emotional beings. They have basic needs, just like you. 

Ask For Help If You Need It

Finally, ask for help if you need it. Small business communities are stronger than ever. People are willing to fight for you, but they can’t give you what you need if you don’t ask for it. Common things to ask for are:

  • Copywriting for websites
  • Online shops
  • Process flows for product delivery
  • Other revenue streams
  • Social media management
  • Childcare (so you can focus on your business)

Whatever it is, ask for it. If you’re having issues finding a solution, please tag FocusCopy at @FocusCopyLLC to let us know or send an email to info@FocusCopy.com. We made it our mission to be our clients’ strategic partners in all their business communications. So let’s partner together and get through this!

If your company needs help with COVID-19 messaging, we are offering 2 hours of free consultation with me –  co-founder and CEO of FocusCopy. With over 4 years of copywriting, digital marketing, and entrepreneurship experience, I want to help you navigate these uncertain times. No gimmicks. No up-sells. Just pure and sincere help from a fellow business owner. Click here to schedule your consultation.  

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